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Wingnut Wings 1/32 scale Airco DH.2 and Fokker E.III - "The Duellists"

Kit:32802 // Scale:1/32 // Price:$129
Wingnut Wings
DH.2: Excellent fit; well-engineered; easy-to-build lattice tail; outstanding interior. Fokker E.III: Excellent fit; well-engineered for strength.
DH.2: Hard to use photoetched-metal parts for rigging; confusing rigging diagram; use of same engine fronts for Oberursel and Gnome compromises cylinder-fin detail. Fokker E.III: Confusing rigging diagram needs detail views to clear up confounding illustrated perspectives; use of same engine fronts for Oberursel and Gnome compromises cylinder-fin detail.
DH.2: Injection-molded, 120 parts (6 photoetched metal), decals. Fokker E.III: Injection-molded, 100 parts (9 photoetched metal), decals

New Zealand’s Wingnut Wings continues to break new ground with impressive 1/32 scale World War I aircraft. Among its new releases are two important early-war fighters: the Fokker Eindecker and its famous nemesis, the Airco DH.2. There are several kits of each, and a box that includes both under the label “The Duellists,” reminiscent of Airfix’s “Dogfight Doubles.” Chuck Davis built this kit and has reviewed the aircraft separately.

Airco DH.2

Commonly referred to as Britain’s answer to the Fokker Scourge, de Havilland’s DH.2 was almost the right fighter at almost the right time. Not able to completely eradicate the Fokkers, it did manage to stem the horrific loss rate suffered by the Royal Flying Corps — at least until the Albatros showed up in increasing numbers.

While not the first kids on the block with a 1/32 scale DH.2, Wingnut shoves the competition aside with this pusher. 

Needing only 120 of the parts included in the kit, you get a number of extras left over – more than normal, in fact, because, unlike Wingnut’s other releases, the Duellist series includes markings for only one airframe. 

The parts you do use are crisply molded and smartly engineered, with plenty of helpful features, such as keyed strut ends and strong wing-attachment points. 

The DH.2 uses an attachment method for the booms similar to Wingnut’s Fe.2b — not surprising, given the similarities. There are no issues with alignment or strength.

The interior has a couple of noticeable ejector-pin marks to deal with — I filled them with discs punched from thin card stock, but putty or super glue would work as well.

After that, the interior goes together easily. The parts count is low, yet the result looks fantastic. 

In an odd twist, both kits in The Duellists” share similar engines despite being adversaries. This kept the parts count down for Wingnut, but it does compromise detail and forces you to remove molded-on spark plugs from the front of each cylinder. This causes problems with replacing or repairing the petite fin detail, the one failing I found with this kit.

One other minor issue to watch is the fit of the engine cover. The mounting pin for the air intake (Part A41) interferes with the filler neck (Part A59) installed on the bulkhead. Trimming the pin allowed the cover to fit, but even then it required clamping.

While it does consume a fair amount of work, the only stressful part of the build — other than the rigging — comes with attaching the booms. Wingnut again makes this assembly simple and strong. I was especially worried about mounting the tail assembly because of the small attachment points, but three dots of super glue did the trick. Kit engineering helps ensure alignment is perfect.

As always, planning is the key to a successful rigging outcome. For the most part, Wingnut has done a good job with rigging diagrams for the main planes and the boom. But I was a bit frustrated by not having a clearer idea of the rigging under and around the tail surfaces. Without modification, I was unable to get my rigging material to allow a double run of wires to the rudder through the tiny pulley (Part D13) mounted on each rear strut, so I couldn’t use the photoetched-metal wire tensioner included in the kit. Breaking from tradition, I first placed the wires that attach to the fuselage on the boom, rather than the upper wing, as access would be tight once the lower wing was in place. For the same reason, I placed the wires leading from the engine cover on the fuselage before adding the cover. All other rigging was attached first to the upper wing, then tied off to the lower wing once assembled. I used nylon monofilament — medical suture, actually — for all the rigging, and turnbuckles and brass tubing from Bob’s Buckles. I expended a feverish number of hours playing Edward Tweezerhands.

Then I attached all the delicate parts like the gun, engine, prop, and wheels. Be careful rigging the booms — I put a bit too much tension on one wire and it caused a bump to show up in my boom.

While construction was not as quick as it can be building a standard biplane, the 49 hours I spent on my little lattice tail was fun. I can’t wait to see what Wingnut comes up with next.

Fokker E.III

Considered by many the father of the modern fighter, the Fokker Eindecker was the first to incorporate a synchronized forward-firing machine gun with a tractor engine. Quickly overmatched by more maneuverable, faster designs, it was top dog on the Western Front long enough to become famous as the Fokker Scourge.

Packaged in a large box, the Fokker kit takes up only 100 parts, aside from unused parts. This particular kit includes only one decal option for the E.III version.

The interior is packed full of parts and takes some time to paint. Confirmation of the engineering excellence is found in the sturdy box-like structure located behind the rear bulkhead. This large molding provides a solid anchor point for tabs molded onto the one-piece wings, with each wing slotting into the “shelf” provided by this box. Make sure the slots are aligned perfectly with the corresponding openings in the fuselage, and the wings will stay in place, level, without glue — amazing!

The Fokker monoplanes featured a characteristic “machined” finish on their metal components. Wingnut suggests using two differing lusters of metallic paint, with the darker shade used to paint random squiggles on top of the shinier shade. I have enough trouble painting things to look intentionally finished — I decided intentional randomness was beyond me, so I borrowed a dense-foam cleaning sponge from my wife and sponge-painted the metal panels, including the cowling.

Wingnut supplies a separate piece for the stitched fabric seam on the lower fuselage; as a result, the builder is directed to glue the top of the fuselage first, place the stitching, then glue the bottom seam.

The engine sprues are shared between the two Duellists, with the Fokker’s Oberursel version requiring removal of the top-mounted spark plugs. While not as damaging as the corresponding modifications to make this engine into a Gnome version for the DH.2, it still represents an unusual compromise for Wingnut. You have the option of using the molded-on blast plate on the cowling or replacing it with a photoetched-metal version. This panel should be annealed before use, along with the seat belts and machine-gun jacket.

After painting and applying the decals, your final assembly is straightforward. Be extremely careful of the horizontal stabilizer — the molded tube joining the halves is scale thickness and so fragile it will break if you look at it long enough. On the other hand, despite its spindly appearance, the landing gear is strong.

Once assembly is complete, rigging may begin. Hopefully, you’ve planned ahead — just because it’s a monoplane doesn’t mean the rigging is easy. I used nylon monofilament medical suture in conjunction with eyelets and small brass tubes from Bob’s Buckles. I had to drill tiny holes through the kit-provided pulleys to allow the wires to pass. (Remember, I said it wasn’t easy.) I studied the many photos supplied by Wingnut in the instructions and on its website, along with the drawings included, and I still wasn’t quite sure I knew where the wires ran in the landing gear assembly. I wish some more-detailed views had been included. In the end, I think I got close.

After 39 hours, I had completed another enjoyable Wingnut odyssey — typically great fit, exquisite detail, wonderful decals, and mildly annoying rigging drawings that could have been great. Both kits in “The Duellists” boxing are now available separately and include numerous options.

I’m not sure where Wingnut is headed with this marketing angle, but I’m quite willing to ride along. While not for the novice, these kits should be no problem for an experienced builder. Just pay attention to the rigging!

Note: A version of these reviews appeared in the April 2013 FineScale Modeler.


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